Tuesday, January 06, 2009


In a determined act of (long) post-Reformation iconoclasm, the Vicar of Dibley Rev Ewen Souter, vicar at St John's Church in Horsham, West Sussex, ordered the removal of a 10-foot sculpture of Jesus on the cross just before Christmas.

Why? He deemed the sculpture by Edward Bainbridge Copnall -- not exactly a local macramé artist -- "unsuitable" and "a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering".

Quoth the Reverend:
We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross.
That, honey, is called euphemism, which is a rhetorical device not liked at this blog. And just to point out the hypocrisy contradiction of your words, vicar, let me remind you of the subtle soft focus portrayal of the "good news" in your holy book (I'm sure you know them by heart):
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Gol'gotha:
where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Uplifting and inspiring indeed!

As John says: Christ didn't come to earth to spend a day at the seaside (although there are places on the British coast which might make good crucifixion sites).


Francis Sedgemore said...

"there are places on the British coast which might make good crucifixion sites"

I nominate Prestatyn.

headbang8 said...

Climbing the Kapuzinerberg in Salzburg, past the famous stations of the cross, with a religious relative. She asked me what I thought of them.

"That's what happens when you forget the Safe Word," I replied.

The Wife said...

Actually, Prestatyn was what I was thinking of. Terrible place. Worse than Blackpool.

Francis Sedgemore said...

At least Blackpool has B&B landladies like characters in a typical Beryl Cook painting. With Prestatyn they're all straight out of Martin Honeysett cartoons.

mikeovswinton said...

"Worse than Blackpool"? I'd be dubious about that. I went to Blackpool recently. I would take some convincing that Prestatyn is worse.

More seriously, if you wish to go further on the Crucifixion point, can I suggest the chapter "Orgies and Abortions" in "Personal Copy" by Ray Gosling, a quite superb book by one of England's finest commentators. It describes a speech he made in 1964 called "The Darkness of Virtue" (he was reading Jean Genet) in which social phenomena are divided into Orgies, Abortions and Crucifixions. On Iconoclasm, you can't really better Gilbert Durand's "L'Imagination Symbolique", ch. 1 , "La victoire des iconoclastes ou l'envers des positivismes".

The Wife said...

HB and Mike: since you both address the issue of orgies -- either more or less directly -- I guess you have a good point there.

I have to take and post a picture of the gory crucifix positioned on the corner of our street. Blood an' all and school buses full of innocent babbies going past at all hours!

Mike, I'm so grateful that you deem me intelligent and awake enough to be able to read anything substantial at all (why do you think I'm reading the Mail? It's all my poor brain can handle). The Durand sounds tempting indeed and I will make a mental note of the book. Thanks!

Weird thing, iconoclasm. I tend to think of it as part of an enduring Platonic anti-representationalism, whose most recent manifestation is the whole post-structuralist scepticism vis-à-vis signification.

Speaking of representation, Francis: That's a problem Beryl Cook does not have, of course. Her paintings are bright and her landladies buxom, and for some reason Virago (if I remember rightly) used them for a few of their titles. I like her -- she's like Botero, only not so nasty.

mikeovswinton said...

For a good intro to Durand's thought, if you can get "On the disfigurement of the image of man in the West" (Golgoonza Press, Ipswich, 1977)you'll be well on the way. Happy ABEing.

Francis Sedgemore said...

"That's a problem Beryl Cook does not have..."

Did not have. Beryl the (late) peril has been pushing up daisies since May of last year.

The Wife said...

Hang on HB: Your "religious relative" knows what "safe word" means? What kind of religion is she in? Some kind of flagellating group of beguines or what?

The Wife said...

Francis, you know the meaning of the word "pedantic"? :-)

Actually, I was perfectly aware of the fact that BC had died. In fact, I was deeply saddened when I heard the news back in May last year. My use of the present tense can be put down to my wish to to communicate good news and be uplifting and inspiring.

In our hearts, Beryl is still with us!

Francis Sedgemore said...

"My use of the present tense can be put down to my wish to to communicate good news and be uplifting and inspiring."

Are you feeling quite all right this evening? Perhaps you ought to have a lie down.

The Wife said...

"Are you feeling quite all right this evening?"

Must be the cold. And then of course I haven't read the Daily Mail for a while -- I'm all Zen and serenity.

headbang8 said...

Hey, Wifey. Did Haggart know how to bottom? Does the priesthood know about sodomy? Do the abstinence-educated know the horizontal-folk-dance? C'mon.